Dear DFS: How Do I Look for Work During the Holidays?

Dear DFS, 

I was laid off last month and have been tirelessly searching for a new position in my field, but unfortunately, no luck yet. I am starting to get concerned that I will not have a job before the New Year and I know companies aren’t focused on hiring during the holidays. How can I continue to be productive in my job search over the next couple months?  

Thank you for your help, 


Nashville, TN

Dear Alexis,

We wish you much SUCCESS on your job search and know how difficult this transition can be.  It sounds like you have a goal to find a job by December 31st!  You are already motivating yourself to stay focused and move forward!  It’s easy to say you are searching for a new job, but by giving yourself a deadline – it will keep you motivated in trying to find a new career.

Here are just a few tips to stay focused and motivated to move yourself forward:

Make a plan.

Have you researched area companies you are interested in working with?   Are there any job fairs coming up in your area?  Are there any corporations expanding or looking for new employees?  Retailers, restaurants and hotels are currently hiring for temporary holiday employees. It may open a door to something new, keep you busy during this time of year and/or lead you to new connections in your community or industry. Here is a recent article regarding the upcoming 2014 4th Quarter:

Do your research.

Companies may look great on paper or sound great to talk about – but have you actually talked to employees that work there?  Find out what the culture is like within the organization.  Are you focused on staying in Nashville or are you open to moving to a new community in Tennessee or outside of Tennessee?

Sometimes a foot in the door is well… a foot in the door. One of my first jobs out of college was working as a receptionist at a financial institution.  I then found other opportunities available within the company.  By year two, I had moved up to the cashier position: balancing and depositing incoming checks and stock certificates for client accounts. By year three, I had been offered a position as a sales associate: working with the brokers and clients and preparing portfolios for account reviews. Year four, I studied for and passed my Series 7 test and became a registered sales associate. Year five, I moved over to a new company and found a job I absolutely loved and looked forward to everyday. I loved working with the broker and the clients.

I eventually “retired” from the corporate world and became a stay-at-home mom.  While looking for a place to donate my suits, I found Dress for Success and Des Moines was a targeted area to launch an affiliate. Four years later, I am glad I had the opportunity to find a new passion and be surrounded by so many dedicated people in the community.  When one door closes another one is opening.

Stay connected and have your elevator speech ready.

Are you using LinkedIn?  Have you attended any networking groups in your area (Chamber meetings, Business Networking and Referrals, Referral Leaders International groups)?  Have you been invited to any parties, fundraisers or other events?  When you were employed at your last position, did you have contacts with other companies?  Do you have friends or family at companies you are interested in applying for positions?  Do you volunteer with any local organizations?  It looks like a local Dress for Success in Nashville is in the start-up phase.  Feel free to reach out to them to see how you can help get the doors open. It will show your next employer you are helping in your community during this transition period and staying engaged. Or find another organization to help volunteer with. Many organizations love a commitment of just a few hours a week; it will keep you motivated and give you something to look forward to while you are searching for your new job.

Any time you are networking or at an event and people ask what you do, be ready to respond with a 30-second pitch!  Sell yourself!  And be specific!  Connections may open the door for you, but they need to know what you are looking for. They may know of a position opening at their company and/or have some good contacts for you.  Make sure to thank them for taking the time to listen and remind them to keep you posted on any new opportunities (by email is great and keep it brief!).

Social media.

If you are using LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to make connections – remember – your future employer may also use these tools as well.  Do not post things on social media you would not want your future boss to know about you.

Being laid-off from a position is a difficult transition, but stay positive!  This could be just the break you need to find a new passion, to meet new people and to open a new door.

To your SUCCESS,

 Jody White

Executive Director, Founding Partner

Dress for Success Des Moines

Dear DFS: How Do I Avoid Age Becoming a Factor in my Interviews?

Dear DFS,

I have been working in the same career for many years, but was just recently laid off. Now I am on the job search again, and I’m interviewing with people who are half my age. I haven’t been making it to the second round of interviews, and I think I may be coming off wrong to these prospective employers, but it’s hard when you feel like the person interviewing you could be your kid.  How can I change how I’m perceived in these interviews?


Jan, Baltimore

Dear Jan,

First, I would like to congratulate you on landing an interview!  This is a chance for you to begin developing relationships with hiring managers/key personnel in your industry and affords you the opportunity to showcase your talents and brand face-to-face.  I understand that you are concerned that your age may be considered a negative factor, however, I believe this can be turned into a positive attribute.  I advise you to consider a three-pronged approach to interviewing.

First and foremost, a positive attitude is essential!  If you are approaching the interview with a negative outlook (i.e. they will automatically dismiss me because of my age, this hiring manager is young enough to be my child/grandchild) it will be evident.  No one is interested in hiring someone with a chip on their shoulder.  Conversely, if you are open-minded with a positive attitude, you will come across as approachable and friendly.  Who would you rather have on your team: someone who is grumpy or someone who is energetic and enthusiastic?

Second, make sure that your skills are current.  Often, people feel discriminated against solely because of their age, when in fact, their lack of up-to-date skills is the real barrier to getting hired.  You should objectively examine your skills/abilities against the hiring criteria and ask yourself if you are up to the task.  If not, consider taking classes to bring yourself up to speed.  Also, clarify during the interview that you are open to training and willing to learn, but demonstrate that you already possess the knowledge and skills required to do the job.  You need to demonstrate how you are capable of making a positive contribution to the success of the organization.

Finally, be approachable and show how you will be an awesome team member.  You have lots of experiences and knowledge to offer to others and you are willing to share.  Demonstrate how your skills will complement others, and describe your desire to be a dedicated, hard-working team member who is willing to put forth the effort necessary to achieve the company’s goals.

As always, do your homework to prepare for the interview.  This preparation coupled with a great attitude, the required skill set, and compatible personality will help set you apart from others and make you an irresistible candidate.

Best Wishes,

Sue Hicks, SPHR

Career Center Coordinator

Dress for Success Lexington

How Do I Deal With a Co-Worker Who Takes All the Credit?

Dear DFS,

I have a co-worker with whom I collaborate closely on projects at work. Lately, in staff meetings my co-worker has been taking all the credit for “our” ideas, which are often solely “my” ideas. How do I address this so I get the credit I deserve without throwing this person under the bus or embarrassing him/her in front of staff?

Aubrey, Regina

Dear Aubrey,

Firstly, I would like to compliment you for wanting to approach this issue in a respectful way.  Regardless of the issue, we always have a choice about how we address the problem and our reactions are a reflection of who we are as individuals.  Approaching this issue in a mature and positive way will reflect well on you in the workplace.

Here are a few suggestions on how you might approach this challenge:

Get Clarification

It’s easy to become defensive when we feel that someone has wronged us.  However, in order to deal with this situation in a positive and constructive way, the best approach is to first seek to understand your co-worker’s point-of-view.  They may not be aware that they are stepping on your toes and may not be doing this with any self-serving or negative intent.  Try and go into the conversation with an open mind.  Once you have clarified your co-worker’s understanding of the issue and you’ve expressed your side of the experience, it is time to discuss possible solutions to mitigate this happening again.

Discuss Possible Solutions

If your co-worker was not aware of having taken credit for your work, or if they disagree about who was originally responsible for the work, ask them how you might work together so that you can avoid a similar issue in the future.

If, after this discussion, your co-worker continues to take credit for your work, you may choose to have another conversation with them and give them another chance to become self-aware and take responsibility for their breach.  Or, if you feel this will not be helpful, you may wish to discuss the issue with your manager.

If your co-worker expresses a lack of interest in finding a solution, or you can’t come to an agreement to resolve the issue, it may be time to escalate the issue to your manager.

Prior to escalating the issue, let your co-worker know that due to the importance of the problem, you will be seeking guidance from your manager.

Escalate if Necessary

When meeting with your manager, bring material with you to the meeting to show the work you have done.  Describe the attempt you have made to resolve the situation on your own and why you feel it hasn’t been resolved.  Seek the guidance of your manager for next steps.


Here are some things you can do to prevent a similar issue in the future:

• Be more vocal about your ideas and involvement in projects.

• Document your work so that you have a record of what you have accomplished.

• Take the initiative to communicate with your manager on a regular basis to update him/her on your work.

• Lead by example – promote a culture of recognition for individual achievements by publicly recognizing others where it is deserved.

Approaching a co-worker with an issue can be an uncomfortable or intimidating process; however, it allows us to shift away from the concerns we felt from the original problem to focusing on a positive resolution that will, hopefully, result in  fostering a more respectful and productive working relationship.

Good luck and best wishes,

Jennifer Halinda

Executive Director

Dress for Success Vancouver

Dear DFS: Should I Volunteer While Searching for a Job?

Dear DFS:

I was let go from my job about a month ago, and haven’t been able to find many opportunities for work since. It seems like everyone is looking for work this time year. So, in the spirit of the holidays, I’ve decided to volunteer in between job searching. I’ve heard volunteering can be a great way to fill gaps in your resume, so I’m hoping to find something where I can give back to my community and walk away with a valuable experience. I just don’t know where to look. Do you have any ideas?

Hopeful for the holidays!

Amy, Seattle


Dear Amy,

Kudos on keeping your spirits high during your search for a new career! Volunteering is an amazing way to give back to your community, learn new skills, and help maintain a positive outlook as you embark on a new journey. Volunteering demonstrates to potential employers that you are passionate about something and that you care for your community, in addition to showing them you are a person of character and integrity. This would be someone I would want to hire!

When deciding on possible volunteer opportunities, you will want to consider a couple of factors: your schedule availability, personal interests and your values. Finding a volunteer position that fulfills these will help make volunteering a more valuable experience for both yourself and the organization you want to impact. For example, if you had a passion for shopping and wanted to promote the economic independence of low-income women, then volunteering for a local Dress for Success affiliate would be a perfect fit.

There are many different avenues to seek out volunteer opportunities including: MeetUp, SignUpGenius, VolunteerMatch, and NationalService. Internet searches can be very overwhelming, however, many of these sites will help identify an area that interests you or you feel most passionate about. You can also check your local community council for opportunities.

Volunteering should always be fun and rewarding, which is how you should feel about your career. You may want to consider seeking a volunteer position that is closely aligned to the type of employment you wish to secure. For example, if you hope to secure employment as an accountant, you could search for non-profit organizations that are in need of assistance with book-keeping.

Throughout our life, we are all faced with challenging times and it is how we respond to these challenges that reflect who we are as a person. Not allowing the transition between jobs to dampen your spirit speaks wonders of your character and this will shine through as you make strides in your volunteer search and as your career path takes shape.

Good Luck and Blessings,

Kathy Lambert


Dress for Success Midwest & Dress for Success Kansas City

Dear DFS: How Can I Balance Networking and Friendship?

Dear DFS,

I recently decided to make a career change and need to get back into networking. I have a former colleague, who also used to be a close friend, working in the business that I’m now pursuing. I know she has a lot of contacts, and I want to ask for some advice to see if she could possibly introduce me to a few co-workers, but I’m not sure where to start. Since she was a friend when we worked together, I do not want my sudden reemergence to seem abrupt or insincere. I know networking is important in today’s working world, but I still consider this woman my friend and do not want my favor to devalue our relationship. How do I approach her to get the help I need, but maintain our friendship? Is there a balance when it comes to networking and friendship and where is the line?

Needing some ground rules,


Lancaster, PA

Dear Victoria,

Congratulations to you for making a career change!  It is a wonderful opportunity for you to pursue.

In this day and age when sharing of information and social networking has become very much part of both our personal and professional life, the rules have changed. It is commonplace now to make our lives more publicly available and more intertwined.

Do reach out and make contact with your former colleague and be honest and upfront with her as to why you are contacting now.  Do tell her that that it has been a long time since you have been in contact and you want to reconnect with her as a friend and be upfront that you also want to ask her professional advice up to a point where she is comfortable.

Your friend should be delighted to hear from you and delighted to hear you have changed the focus in your career. A good rule of thumb is to tell your friend your situation and what you are looking for, but let her steer on what she is able to do for you.

Make sure you have plenty of time to catch up on a personal level, as well, and try to reconnect the friendship side of things.

One of the most important results that networking can give you is the simple act of letting other people know you are available. Reconnecting with your former colleague on both a personal and professional level will be a benefit to both of you.  By reaching out to one person, you are creating opportunities to get connected to a wider network. Your friend is probably delighted to have the opportunity to network as well so it is a win-win situation for everybody!

Best wishes,

Susan Butler

Programme Co-ordinator

Dress for Success Dublin

Dear DFS: How Do I Get My Boss to Leave Me Alone While I’m on Vacation?

Dear DFS,

The last time I took a vacation from work, it seemed like my direct supervisor never stopped calling me and my vacation really wasn’t much of a vacation at all!  I understand that there are times when emergencies come up, but I really feel like my boss stepped over the line.  I am planning on taking another vacation this month and I would like to ask my boss to please only contact me if the matter is urgent, but I’m afraid that he’ll think I’m not dedicated to my job and that this could be held against me.  Should I just suck it up and just deal with the interruptions on my vacation or is there a way that I could bring this matter up with him in a polite manner?

Hoping to get the R&R that I deserve, 


Portland, OR

Dear Sammy,

It’s great that you have a vacation on the horizon! We all need time to rest, relax, and recharge our batteries so we can give our best and take pride in our work.

As someone who has been on both sides of the equation – as part of a support team – and as a supervisor – my advice is to take a proactive approach that lets your boss know:  1) you put a high priority on your responsibilities and 2) you really want to unplug during your vacation – you deserve it!

If your group doesn’t already have one, create a one-page ‘Work in Progress’ (WiP). The WiP should include any projects you’re working on, their current status and next steps, any team members collaborating, and the projected completion date in an easy to read format.  It’s also really helpful to include a list of vital contacts, too, including phone and email, that your boss or a team member can contact directly in your absence, should the need arise.  I’ve included a sample WiP here for your review.  

Creating this document will probably take you an hour or so, but it will ensure you won’t be bothered with anything other than emergencies during your time away (let’s hope there aren’t any!) – definitely a positive return on your time investment!  If you work with a team, make sure to review your WiP with them before you meet with your supervisor to ensure everyone’s in agreement, so that there’s no confusion when you’re away.

Once you’ve completed your WiP and reviewed it with your colleagues, reach out to your boss about a week before your scheduled leave.  Let them know that you’ve been proactively documenting your current project status and would like to review with them prior to your time away from the office.  They’ll be elated!  Share the WiP and contact list document and ask if they have any questions or any loose ends they’d like you to tie-up before you leave.

When wrapping up your meeting with your supervisor, share that you genuinely enjoy the work that you do and respect their professionalism (if this isn’t true, you should spend your vacation time looking for a new position!).  Express that during your last vacation, you take responsibility for the fact that you hadn’t prepared thoroughly prior to leaving and this led to them reaching out to you for information they needed, but that you’ve taken the proper steps to make sure that everything will ruin smoothly while you’re away.

Ask for feedback. Does your boss believe the WiP provides a thorough overview of current projects?  If they agree, let them know that you’ve shared the WiP with your co-workers and that they are happy to answer any questions your boss may have during your absence. Tell them that you really believe you’ve done a better job preparing this time, making your absence easier for everyone, and you look forward to your vacation with this access to pending project and contact information listed in the WiP.

If it’s your company’s policy, make sure to create an out of office auto-reply email that states when you’re leaving, when you’re returning, and who can be contacted during this time. Here’s a quick sample: “Thank you for your email. I am out of the office and will return on Monday, August 25. If you need immediate assistance, please contact Tamara Jones at 222-222-2222 or Thank you for your patience during my absence.”  

Additionally, create an outgoing voicemail message for incoming callers with the same details. I know it seems ‘understood,’ but confirm with the colleague to whom you’re forwarding incoming communication that they will follow up with those emails/calls initially reaching out to you.  During your meeting, let your supervisor know these tools are in place for emails and calls.

On your last day in the office before leaving, double check with everyone that the information you’ve provided is clear and thank them for their support during your much-anticipated vacation! And share that you look forward to supporting them when they have their time away from the office! ‘Team work makes the dream work’ is one of my favorite sayings!

Remember when you return from leave to thank your supervisor and colleagues for their support! If you can, it’s a really nice gesture to bring in a treat for the team to enjoy – cookies or cupcakes in the break room with a note from you – “Thanks All! Vacay was AWESOME! You Rock!”  – goes a long way to ensure your next leave will be smooth sailing!

Sammy, I hope this information is helpful to you and that you have a tremendous holiday!

Make it a Successful Day!

Vicki Bowen Hewes, CEO

Dress for Success Columbus

Dear DFS: How Do I Craft an Elevator Speech?

Dear DFS:

I’ve been unemployed for two years now, so I’ve recently decided to try career counseling in hopes of revamping my job search. Everyone I’ve talked to keeps telling me that I need a great elevator pitch to step up my networking skills, but no one’s given me the tools to get started. Do you think having an elevator pitch is important?  If so, do you have any tips on how to create one that’s right for me?

Ready to elevate my career!

Michelle, Houston


Dear Michelle,

First, let me start by saying that I understand how difficult it is to be job searching.  It is a competitive market, so kudos to you for keeping your head up and giving it your best!  I think it is very important for everyone to have an elevator pitch, whether they are job searching or not.  Networking is one of the best ways to make connections that could lead to opportunities, so it is good practice to know how to talk about yourself in a way that is interesting, memorable, and, most importantly, brief!

The best thing about an elevator speech is that there’s not a lot to remember!  You’re taking all of the best qualities of yourself and condensing it into just a few minutes to provide a powerful punch of information that should leave a long-lasting impression on your listener.  No one knows you better than yourself, right?  You should talk about what you do and why.  Speak from the heart, so your words are authentic, not memorized—even though you have spent a long time perfecting it.

So, here are some tips and a few questions to for you to ask yourself that I hope will be helpful to you in crafting your personal pitch:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you do, and why?
  • What do you want to do, and why?
  • What skills or experience do you have that make you the right person for the job?
  • Take a look at your resume, and think about the accomplishments you made in each job you’ve had.  If you have not worked before, think about accomplishments you have made in school, or in your personal life that would transfer to a job situation.

Focus on all of the positive things about yourself, and you can’t go wrong! Remember that great opportunity is out there just waiting for you to find it. And the only way to find it is by continuing your search.  Please do not give up.

I wish you all the best in your job search and beyond!


 Kim Todd

Executive Director

Dress for Success Boston

Dear DFS: How Can I Get My Dream Company to Notice Me?

Dear DFS,

I think it is time to move on from my current position and find a new job, but I don’t just want any job!  There is one company in particular that I have wanted to work with for years now.  I hate to sound cheesy, but it’s kind of my dream job! I regularly check their website to see if they have any openings that would be fitting for me, but haven’t seen anything yet.  Is there anything that I can do in the meantime to let them know about me?  I know that good things come to those who wait, so I am prepared to be patient until the right position arises, but I want to be as proactive as possible, as well!

I am determined to achieve my dreams,


Manchester, UK

Dear Tara,

We are really happy to know that you’re following your dreams and are inspired to develop a great career with the company that you really desire to work in, but you have and can do much more than just checking their website or waiting for the lucky start to reach you!

So what can you do in the interim until you reach your dream position? Well, that gap can be filled in many ways—by continuously collecting information and research on the company, as it seems you have been doing; posting your resume to company’s online job board if they have one; or even attempting to reach out to their human resources team directly to set up an exploratory interview.

Are they hosting an event in the near future?  RSVP for it and make plans to attend, so that you can mingle with those that matter the most in the department that you’re aiming for.

Are there other organizations in your area that are hiring for the same type of position that you’d like to acquire?  Garnering more experience in your preferred area of work is never a bad thing and this might actually make you a more desirable candidate to the company that you really want to work for.

And never underestimate the importance of networking!  If you ask most people, “how did you get your job here?,” I bet that nine out of ten of them will say that some person told them about it. Here in Lisbon, we refer to those people as “bridge people.” They know you, you know them and they know someone else. Most jobs get filled by these “bridge people.

You already identified your dream company, so now it’s time to identify your “bridge people.” LinkedIn can be your best friend here. I´m sure that the company you want to work for has a Company Profile page on LinkedIn, as most employers recognize it as a valuable tool to find valuable employees just like you!

Go to that Company Page and see if you’re connected to anyone that works there.  Is there just one or two degrees of separation between you and a current employee of the company?  Then ask your mutual acquaintance if they will make an introduction for you.  If the degrees of separation are a bit greater, simply send them an invite to connect and see what happens.  Now that you have the names of the current employees that would be most relevant to you, you can also Google them and see if you can find their work email address and try to connect with them directly that way.

Bridge people” or not, never forget that people are crucial to your job-hunt and beyond.

Good luck and count on us.


 Fernanda Machado

Founder & President

Dress for Success Lisbon

Dear DFS: How Can I Care for My Mother AND My Children?

Dear DFS,

I am proud to say that I am currently working full-time, but in addition to balancing my career and caring for my two children, my mother is older in age and has recently fallen ill, so I am now tending to her, as well.  I obviously love my mother with all of my heart, but I am not sure how much longer I can keep up this juggling act—or if I am even the best person to be caring for her.  I’m obviously no millionaire, but do you know of where I might look for help or have any advice on how I can better manage this situation?

Fingers crossed,


Corpus Christi, TX

Below are some answers from the Career Coaches affiliated with Dress for Success Triangle in North Carolina:

Hello Lucia – First, let me say congratulations on your full-time position.  I recognize balancing your responsibilities as a working mother can be very challenging, but I am confident you will succeed.  I assume you do not have other family members that can share the care of your mother in the local area.  If not, there are two programs that may be able to provide some additional support.  Your current employer may have what is known as an EAP (employee assistance program).  These services can often help you find resources and support for a variety of work life balance challenges.  They may also be able to provide referrals for elder care programs nearby.  You can ask your human resources representative for more information.  Also, you can contact your local social services department.  Dependent upon your mom’s age and condition, she may qualify for benefits that can help support her care.  I hope these options work for you.  Stay encouraged. – Tomesah Harrison

Caring for your ill mother can be a huge challenge.  Most importantly, take care of yourself so you are better able to juggle all your responsibilities.  Be sure to ask for help!  This can be from friends or community resources (church or civic).  Fortunately, the state of Texas where you are located has a Department of Aging and Disability Services with an extensive website.  The website includes lists of options for adult day care, assisted living facilities, home healthcare, home- and community-based programs, free-standing nursing homes, hospital-based nursing homes and residential care for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  If you care for someone 60 or older, you can call 1-800-252-9240. Your local AAA may be able to help you find services in your area, help arrange for those services and provide short-term relief.  Support groups may be helpful to vent your frustrations and get advice from people in similar situations.  Take Time Texas challenges caregivers to take some time for themselves and reach for information, support and assistance. To encourage caregivers to take that time, the Texas Respite Coordination Center was created to offer caregivers and respite care providers services, resources and educational materials.  Texas has 28 local area agencies on aging (AAA) contract with to help people 60 and older and their caregivers find the information they need to locate and access community services, including benefits counseling/legal assistance; care coordination; information; referral and assistance; legal awareness; and an ombudsman program.  There is a wealth of resources out there – be persistent in reaching out for help!  – Lois Bronstein

I’m so sorry to hear about your mother and have encountered this issue on both sides: the unexpected care taker and the one needing the help for themselves. I have found in almost every city, there are organizations that help people on various levels such as house cleaning, transportation to doctors or simply a friendly visit for a chat. They usually are found under social services. I located an organization named Elderly Care at Home: Free Elder Care in the Home.  This, of course, is presuming your mother is eligible for senior services. If they can’t help, they should be able to direct you to a nonprofit that can. – Joy Carter

If your employer offers an Employee Assistance Program, please check it out. They may be familiar with elder and child care resources. To find out more, check with Human resources department or whomever is in charge of benefits.  – Kioka Dunston